This is Not News

A re-post from Shelagh Rogers (Facebook, June 6, 2021), who helped facilitate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada in 2015.

When we learned about the 215 Indigenous children buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School while in the care of Catholic clergy who ran the school, the Prime Minister shared this tweet:

“The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history. I am thinking about everyone affected by this distressing news. We are here for you.”

I want to parse the tweet out a little.

May I start with “The news”? I don’t understand how could this be news when a whole volume of the TRC report (V.4, 266 pages) is dedicated to children who did not come home? That volume is titled “Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials”. Have you read it, Prime Minister? It’s been out for 5 and 1/2 years. Is it required reading for all your ministers? I was there in December of 2015 when the full 6 volume TRC report was presented to you, Prime Minister. I was in the company of fellow TRC honorary witnesses from Coast Salish territory, Andrea Walsh and Chief Bobby Joseph.

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Sowing Hope

By Ched Myers, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 4:26-34)

Note: This is an ongoing series of re-posts of Ched’s brief comments from 2015 on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B.

This week the lectionary gives us the last third of Jesus’ parables sermon (hopping over the famous parable of the Sower and its allegorical interpretation, Mk 4:2-23). This section begins with a sober warning:

And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear: ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away’.” (Mk 4:24-25)

Mark’s Jesus cautions his audience to “beware” of the anti-Jubilary ideologies they hear from elites, which counsel resignation in the face of injustice (4:23). The assertion that the gulf between haves and have-nots will inevitably grow was the “realism” advanced by wealthy landowners to justify their privilege (4:24). These two verses are omitted by the lectionary portion, but in fact are the point to which the next two parables serve as radical counterpoint, as Jesus repudiates such rationalizations of economic stratification (in the spirit of another parable-spinner, Ezekiel, see Ez 18:1-9).

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White Evangelical Racism

An excerpt from an interview with Anthea Butler, the author of the new release White Evangelical Racism. The full interview with Eric Miller at Religion and Politics can be read here.

I chose this title because I wanted to set certain parameters for the book. I specified white evangelicals to show that I’m using the term in the way that it is used colloquially by the media and the political pundits, rather than in some academic sense. That popular understanding of evangelical can be traced to self-identification, to the demographic of white, Christian conservatives who consider themselves evangelical. And I included racism because it is a very particular type of racism that I am discussing. That is, the racism that hides behind “moral” issues.

I address these questions at some length in the book, exploring how the meaning of evangelicalism has changed over time, and recognizing that there are a lot of people out there who don’t realize they’re in this thing because their self-concept leans heavily on theological considerations, allowing them to pretend that they’re not political. But nobody cares about your commitment to the Bebbington Quadrilateral when you’re arguing about the Supreme Court or judges or abortion. They care about how your belief informs your politics, which candidates you vote for, and what they stand for. So I wanted to pull evangelicals out of this safe little realm in which they’ve placed themselves and press them to confront how other people see them.

Binding the Strong Man: Jesus’ Master Metaphor

By Ched Myers, for the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 3:20-35)

Note: This is re-posted from a series of Ched’s brief comments in 2015 on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B.

The first major narrative cycle in Mark’s gospel (1:16-3:6) ends with Jesus’ rejection by the authorities in a Capernaum synagogue. The following episodes serve to regenerate the story by a withdrawal and summary scene (3:7-12) and then by a reconsolidation moment (3:13-19a). The latter mountaintop scene boldly re-contextualizes two of the most revered traditions of Israel: God’s covenant with Moses on Sinai, and Moses’ founding of the free tribal confederacy in the wilderness. Jesus, who has taken the torch from the prophets, prepares to pass it on to twelve disciples he has called, named, and commissioned to proclaim, heal and exorcize (3:14f). Shortly they will be sent out to practice this charge – a second regenerative episode that follows upon another synagogue rejection (6:1-13).

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The Womanist Theology of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

An excerpt from a reflection on the life of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon by Angela D. Sims. Re-posted from Religion and Politics, February 2019.


In every generation, a “remnant” of scholars emerges that challenges status quo perspectives. Their critiques of normative constructs serve as models for subsequent scholars who learn how to work not only to eat but also to work in a manner that enables others to eat. The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon was indeed such a person. She loved life, loved people, loved laughter, loved food, loved imagining the not yet, loved calling things into existence. The progenitor of womanist theological ethics, Cannon was a brilliant scholar, a mentor extraordinaire who possessed an ability to discern what was most needed, and generous (almost to a fault) in the sharing of her time and resources…

…Born January 3, 1950, in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Cannon became the first black woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, a precursor to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). After earning her doctorate at Union Theological Seminary in New York City—the first African American woman to do so—Cannon laid the foundation for womanist ethics in her 1985 essay, “The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness.” Many black women in theological disciplines, including Cannon, have gravitated to the use of author Alice Walker’s term “womanist” as both a challenge to and a confessional statement for our own work. Womanist, as defined in Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, contains elements of tradition, community, self, and a critique of white feminist thought and provides a fertile ground for religious reflection and practical application.

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An Alternative Version

By Tommy Airey

A year ago, police responded to a call from a convenience store employee who accused George Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Before every single one of us witnessed this Black man forty days younger than me face down on the street pavement calling for his mother while a white man in uniform with his left hand in his pocket took his life by kneeling on his neck, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a press release describing what happened:

Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.

This ordering of facts was the official account.  

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Holiness Entered Suffering

A recent social media re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.

At its best, Christianity isn’t about redemptive suffering. Suffering isn’t sacred. This is the classic mistake. That, somehow, enduring suffering is, in and of itself, something holy. This sort of thinking leads to the horrid idea that a soldier’s death renders their service holy. It is a lie that empires spin.

Rather, the way of Jesus tells us that holiness *enters* suffering. On the cross, God suffered. Holiness entered suffering, not to glorify suffering, but to be with those who suffer.

It is life that is sacred. In our suffering, God is present.

This is the powerful insight of liberation theology. God is uniqely present with the oppressed.

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But When it Comes to Palestine

An excerpt from a recent Democracy Now interview with Marc Lamont Hill, the co-author of Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics (2021).

…all the issues that are coming up right now really speak to the various ways that Palestinians have been made the exception to many of our progressive values and politics and actions, if you think about — or, rather, in activist circles. I’ll start there, in activist circles. You know, we have this person we call the ”PEP” — right? — the person who’s progressive except for Palestine. This is the person that’s outraged at Trump for his actions at the border, who’s disgusted by children in cages, who can’t stand to think about the erosion of civil liberties. But when it comes to Palestine, somehow, they don’t engage those same ideas in the same way.

And so, in our book, what we attempt to do is lay out the kind of policy groundwork. We lay out the frontier on which these battles are fought. We want people to understand not just the contradictions of the so-called left, but also to understand how those contradictions emerged. So, whether it’s questions about the right to exist, whether it’s questions about BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or whether it’s the attempt to make Trump the exception rather than part of a more aggressive articulation of the American rule, we are attempting to show that the American left — those who identify as progressive, radical, liberal, what have you — have not held up the bargain in terms of matching their own ideals and values on this question of Israel and Palestine. And that’s something that we want to raise.

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Of the Empire

A prose poem of Mary Oliver, passed along to us from movement elder Clancy Dunigan.

We will be known as a culture that feared death and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity for the few and cared little for the penury of the many. We will be known as a culture that taught and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke little if at all about the quality of life for people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a commodity. And they will say that this structure was held together politically, which it was, and they will say also that our politics was no more than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of the heart, and that the heart, in those days, was small, and hard, and full of meanness